Posting Nude Photos of Ex Is a Crime in Pennsylvania

Many people are now aware of the recent passage of “revenge porn” statutes across the country, but many people do not even know what the phrase “revenge porn” means. Generally speaking, it often arises in the context of one person posting naked or nude photos of an ex-paramour or spouse on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.

The revenge porn law in Pennsylvania is set forth at 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 3131 and is officially called Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Image. The law prohibits a person from disseminating a visual depiction of a current or former sexual or intimate partner in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual conduct with the intent to harass, annoy, or alarm that person. If the victim is a minor, then the charge is graded as a first-degree misdemeanor and thereby carries a maximum  sentence of 5 years incarceration and a $10,000.00 fine. If the victim is over 18, then the charge is graded as a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 2 years incarceration and a $5,000.00 fine.

Invasion of Privacy in Pennsylvania

As many people are aware, it has been a crime for a long time in Pennsylvania to for a person to take nude photos of a person without the person’s consent. Committing such acts is a violation of the Invasion of Privacy law at 18 Pa.C.S.A. § 7507.1. The offense is normally a misdemeanor of the third degree, which means it is punishable by up to 1 year in jail and a $2,500.00 fine. However, if there is more than one violation, then the severity of the charge is increased to a second degree misdemeanor and thereby punishable by up to 2 years incarceration and a $5,000.00 fine. A conviction of Invasion of Privacy also requires a person to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law or SORNA in Pennsylvania. A violation of Invasion of Privacy is often discovered after the person that took the photo without consent posts the photo online or shows the picture to another person. It is often the distribution of the photo that leads to discovery of the criminal act and then the filing of criminal charges.

Invasion of Privacy Versus Unlawful Dissemination

The primary distinction between Invasion of Privacy and Unlawful Dissemination of Intimate Image is that under the unlawful dissemination law, the photos were taken with the consent of the other person, but the other person never consented to the distribution of the photos. The photos are generally released or posted on social media after there is a break up, because the one party is seeking revenge by trying to embarrass the other with the posting of the photos. The Revenge Porn law is intended to curb the release of intimate photos without a person’s consent.

A violation of the Invasion of Privacy law as is often viewed as a more egregious offense because the victim is unknowingly being photographed or recorded in an intimate or vulnerable situation without even knowing of the recording. The characterization of Unlawful Dissemination as a “revenge” or vengeful act is very accurate. The naked or partially nude photos are almost always being posted on social media to embarrass the ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend. Regrettably, people are often angry over a bitter breakup, and people in those situations often make bad decisions, evidenced by the issuance of restraining or Protection From Abuse (PFA) orders. Just another example of why people should not go on social media when they are angry or drunk as bad things tend to happen.